What is Valley Fever?
Valley Fever is the common name for coccidioidomycosis, an incurable, devastating, and deadly parasitic systemic fungal disease. It is also known as San Joaquin Valley Fever, Desert Fever, Desert Rheumatism, and other names. The biohazard that causes this airborne disease is a fungal parasite from the species Coccidioides. It is considered the most virulent fungal parasite known to man.
Our page “What is Valley Fever?” answers this question with even greater depth. The remainder of this FAQ provides further detail on additional Valley Fever topics of importance.
Who can contract Valley Fever?
Any person or mammal can contract Valley Fever, regardless of age or health. It was declared an epidemic by the CDC in 2003 and every year since has been worse. All it takes is inhaling one microscopic spore that is invisible to the naked eye.
How can I contract Valley Fever?
Infection is caused by inhaling the fungal spores of Coccidioides spp. (C. immitis or C. posadasii). All anyone has to do is take a breath where these spores are airborne. The spores are approximately the same size as anthrax spores and the wind can carry them up to 500 miles from their source. (Dr. Arthur DiSalvo, Dimorphic Fungi). The spores can come through ventilation systems or can be inhaled outdoors whether in the city, country, or desert environment of an endemic region. Or, anywhere in the world, it is possible to inhale spores on objects that came from or passed through endemic areas. This is known as transmission by fomites.
However the spores were inhaled, these spores become parasites in your lung and can spread through the bloodstream. From there they can go virtually anywhere in the body. This spread from the lung is called dissemination.
An infection can also be caused if Coccidioides spores enter an open cut or wound. This is known as a cutaneous infection, but is far less common than when spores are inhaled.
Is Valley Fever contagious from person to person, animal to person, or person to animal?
It can be passed cutaneously between open wounds but this is a rare event that happens most often to medical professionals or to people handling deceased animals. It has also been passed from donated organs to the organ recipient, resulting in death in some cases. Although some donated organs are checked for Valley Fever, mistakes have been made. Infected donor organs have gone into unsuspecting recipients causing sickness and death to occur. This is an additional Valley Fever risk beyond the fact that all organ transplant patients are already at a greater risk for severe diseases because of the immune deficiencies involved in the transplant process.
We are also unsure about the safety of the blood supply. Valley Fever disseminates through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, and people who donate blood may not be aware of the fungal spherules in their blood at the time. It is not known whether donated blood with Coccidioides in it can infect the recipient. We have not been able to locate any research to confirm or deny this possibility and the American Association of Blood Banks admits they do not test for this disease.
How many ways are there that a person or animal could contract Valley Fever?
There are a handful of confirmed ways to be infected and an unconfirmed possibility to note:
- Inhalation of spores from the air into the lung. Most Valley Fever cases are contracted this way.
- Open lesions or cuts that come into contact with Coccidioides spores.
- Receiving a Valley Fever infected organ during an organ transplant.
- Accidental infection when people working with live spores have injected themselves with Coccidioides. This usually occurs during scientific lab accidents but has even happened to a mortician who prepared a Valley Fever victim’s body.
- Although a healthy placenta can ordinarily filter Coccidioides spores from an infected pregnant woman’s bloodstream to protect the baby, the placenta itself can be infected. This can be deadly to the unborn baby.
- Two cases were discovered where apparent sexual transmission of Coccidioides had occurred.
- Since the CDC to date has ignored our request to screen the blood supply for Valley Fever and the disease disseminates through the bloodstream, there is no way to be certain whether it could be transmitted through a blood transfusion. The CDC had previously been wrong about the possibility of infection from other blood borne illnesses such as the West Nile Virus. Valley Fever infection from a blood transfusion is a reasonable possibility to consider because parasitic Coccidioides endospores are smaller than red blood cells and therefore can’t be filtered as other particles can.
Is there a cure for Valley Fever?
No. Once a person or animal has contracted Valley Fever, the infection remains for life. Even if you were infected but lucky enough for your infection to become dormant, there is a risk that the disease can activate or reactivate at any time in your life to require surgeries, cause chronic illness, or possibly result in death. The decades-old drug nikkomycin Z has shown potential to be a Valley Fever cure but to date it does not have sufficient funding for this possibility to be thoroughly tested.
Is there a vaccine for Valley Fever?
Dr. Galgiani at the VFCE is working on the most highly publicized vaccine candidate. Dr. Cole at UTSA had also been working on a potential vaccine but retired and passed his work on to other researchers. Neither of these projects, nor the other less-publicized vaccine research projects, have sufficient funding at this time to take their work to completion.
Where can I contract Valley Fever?
The fungus that causes Valley Fever is found in the United States in Arizona and California primarily, but also in Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Southeast Washington State and possibly parts of Oregon. See our Map and History Page. It can be also found in northern Mexico, parts of Central America and parts of South America.
Is Valley Fever worse in some endemic states than others?
Yes. Historically, Arizona had 65% of America’s diagnosed Valley Fever cases, primarily in Maricopa and Pima Counties (Phoenix and Tucson) — where the bulk of Arizona’s population lives. Infection rates are also particularly high in Kern County and other parts of California. Bakersfield has been considered “hyperendemic.” Coccidioidomycosis was nicknamed “San Joaquin Valley Fever” because California’s San Joaquin Valley is considered highly endemic.
How can I find a doctor in my area who knows about Valley Fever?
VFS keeps information on recommended physicians and members of our worldwide Valley Fever Survivor Support Group may also have suggestions in your particular area.
Beyond this, you should interview pulmonologists and infectious disease doctors in your local area and ask them how many people with coccidioidomycosis they have treated successfully. Infectious disease doctors are often more aware of the disease than general practitioners and pulmonologists, but many still cling to misconceptions about the disease. You should recommend that your doctor read the book Valley Fever Epidemic and the information at www.valleyfeversurvivor.com so they can have the most reliable, useful, and up-to-date information on this disease.
If your doctor refuses to listen to you or to look at new information, we suggest you may wish to find another physician. A doctor’s ego is not as important as your health. Also, when shopping for new doctors, be sure to ask the staff any questions you may have. If you find that they are rude or uncooperative, remember that the staff’s behavior is often a reflection of the doctor’s behavior.
Are endemic areas’ local doctors (in Arizona and California, especially) likely to take Valley Fever more seriously than out-of-state doctors?
A doctor’s location does not appear to be important. Many doctors who practice in the most heavily endemic areas have shown themselves to be dangerously incompetent when it comes to this disease. Most doctors outside the endemic areas are not considered likely to know about the disease in-depth, but some do.
A few questionnaire respondents reported that doctors who had visited their hospital corrected their local doctor’s misdiagnosis and mistreatment, even though the visiting doctor was not from an endemic area to Valley Fever. Obviously a local doctor should be fully aware of local endemic diseases, but many patients’ experience suggests this is not the case.
What can a doctor do to test for Valley Fever?
There are a variety of blood tests for Valley Fever, the most useful of which is a Complement Fixation titer. A titer is a blood test that checks to see if your body is producing antibodies to VF. Titer tests are often negative months after the first Valley Fever symptoms have appeared, even in chronic cases. Some people who are infected may never show titers, regardless of severity. Sometimes the titer can be useful in other fluids than blood for a more specific diagnosis. For example, a positive cerebrospinal fluid titer may indicate meningitis. Unfortunately, even though a Compliment Fixation titer can be useful to track the disease, some studies have shown them to be less accurate than other blood tests for Valley Fever antibodies (EIA or ELISA) that do not indicate the severity of the disease. EIA and ELISA tests will only say whether a person’s antibody test is positive or negative, not the strength of the response.
Fungal cultures can be taken from a draining lesion or other sites of infection. Cultures can be collected by biopsy, bronchoscopy, and other means. Fine-needle biopsies may be less intrusive to lung tissue than other methods so raise the possibility with your doctor if a biopsy of a lung lesion is suggested. A negative titer does not rule out infection. Although cultures are less likely to yield false negatives, in some cases culture tests were negative in people who were positive for VF. A positive titer or culture, however, counts as proof that a patient is infected with Valley Fever.
Further, no doctor has the ability to tell for certain whether Valley Fever has not disseminated or will reactivate. Only time will tell. There have been cases where a disseminated reactivation had occurred 45 years after the initial infection, and the reactivation unfortunately took the person’s life. Valley Fever skin tests have only recently become available again but are not designed to be useful while a patient has symptoms – they are best for survey testing or to know whether a person ever had Valley Fever in the past.
My doctor wants me to take antifungal drugs. How long will I need to be on the medication? Do my symptoms have to be serious?
Some Valley Fever patients may require lifelong antifungal treatment. This may be true in some people even if their symptoms do not appear to be terrible. If you continue to run a titer your physician will probably want you to stay on antifungals because ongoing positive titer tests often suggest Valley Fever is still active in your body.
I have Valley Fever and can’t afford my medication. What can I do?
In the short term, inform your doctor that you can’t afford the antifungal medication and ask if he or she may be able to give you free samples of the drugs you require. To continue receiving medication, consider the Partnership for Prescription Assistance which is accessible through this link. Your doctor may need to be the one to contact these groups in order for you to qualify for the programs. Other pharmaceutical companies may have similar programs and you should ask your doctor to advise you of all the programs that may help you get the medication you need at the lowest prices.
Also warehouse club stores (Sam’s Club, Costco, etc.) often have pharmacies with prescription drugs at lower prices than patients can find elsewhere. Check with your local club stores to see if they can provide your medication at a lower cost. If you are not a member or not able to become a member, call or visit your local warehouse club store and ask if the pharmacy can be used by non-members.
My pet has Valley Fever and I can’t afford the medication. What can I do?
As with human patients, a veterinarian may be able to provide samples. If more help is needed you may wish to review this link: https://bestfriends.org/resources/financial-aid-pets
My Valley Fever has been misdiagnosed as cancer. Does this happen very often?
Yes, often with lung lesions that are misdiagnosed as cancer, surgically cut out of the lung, and then diagnosed as Valley Fever after the fact. This causes a great deal of unnecessary pain to the patient’s body and stress in personal relationships. We recommend that you ask your doctor if a fine needle lung nodule biopsy could be performed instead of starting with major surgery. This may save part of your lung if you have been in, passed through, or received packages from an endemic region, as the suspected cancer may actually be from a Valley Fever infection.
I live in an endemic zone and was told Valley Fever was a benign disease. Is that true?
No. It can make you sick, cause fungal abscesses or lesions, debilitate you, cripple you for life, or kill you. It can be unbearably painful and is definitely not a benign disease. The misconception that Valley Fever is benign was started because of a medical focus on the common flu-like symptoms that start many Valley Fever cases, and also the potential for an immune resistance, which is explained later on this page.
Millions of people live in endemic areas and don’t seem to be dropping like flies. How bad can Valley Fever be?
Since Valley Fever is initially asymptomatic in under 50% of the people it infects, since the disease causes such a wide variety of symptoms, and since it is misdiagnosed so frequently and can activate or reactivate decades after the initial infection, the actual toll of Valley Fever is difficult to measure. (Cole GT, Xue JM, Okeke CN, Tarcha EJ, Basrur V, Schaller RA, Herr RA, Yu JJ, Hung CY. A vaccine against coccidioidomycosis is justified and attainable. Med Mycol. 2004 Jun;42(3):189-216).
Many residents in endemic areas flippantly dismiss the disease as “no big deal” simply because its effects are not immediate and lethal in every case. This is almost always because they don’t actually know what this disease can do. The lack of Valley Fever education makes it easy for someone to dismiss the disease and then believe infected people are “just tired” or that people “just get arthritis as they age” or that their shortness of breath is from “old lungs.” Some people believe that if their immune system is not compromised that they can’t get sick with this disease. The reality is that, no matter how healthy a person is, anyone at any age can contract cocci and be seriously ill, debilitated, or die. It’s not a matter of how healthy you were before you contracted cocci, it’s how sick you are after you contracted it. Whenever Valley Fever is studied seriously, research shows it is clearly a threat to public health.
In addition to the medical problems noted throughout our web site (especially our Facts Page), the fungal parasite that causes Valley Fever was regulated as a Select Agent in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. During the Cold War, the CIA kept a supply of Coccidioides spores as a weapon along with other harmful materials such as paralytic shellfish poison, anthrax, and other dangerous organisms. This was in violation of then-President Nixon’s ban on biological weapons.
While training for World War II, the Army Air Corps had thousands of soldiers sickened because of Valley Fever. According to Dr. Marshall Fiese’s textbook Coccidioidomycosis (1958), American soldiers stationed in some cocci endemic areas were told to remain where dust control measures were in effect. “Roads were paved, air strips were hard-surfaced and swimming pools replaced dusty athletic fields. Lawns were planted by the acre, and military personnel were ordered, at risk of court martial, to avoid unprotected areas” (p81). This was done to avoid further Valley Fever infections among American soldiers. When it was determined the disease struck African-Americans and Filipinos far more often with the worst and most lethal infections, Coccidioides sp. was considered a race-specific weapon of biological warfare.
Valley Fever is an epidemic, estimated to infect 3% of the population in the most endemic areas of the United States each year. Annually, this means hundreds of thousands of people are infected even before one accounts for tourism, visitors, and America’s less endemic areas.
Also of note is a little-known fact from Dr. David Steven’s textbook, Coccidioidomycosis (1980). America held some captured Nazi prisoners of war in Arizona, who subsequently fell ill after being infected by Valley Fever. Although the Nazi concentration camps were infamous for their torture and cruelty, Germany invoked the Geneva Convention so America would remove Nazi prisoners of war from the areas where Valley Fever could be contracted.
Consider this for a moment: The CIA felt Valley Fever had so much potential as a biological weapon that they broke the law to keep it. American soldiers could be court martialed for walking where they might more readily contract Valley Fever. When imprisoned Nazis were subjected to the risk of Valley Fever, the conditions were considered an inhumane violation of their rights. When ordinary people like you and me are subjected to the risk of this disease, it’s called a vacation or a place to make your home.
As to why local residents don’t seem to take the disease seriously, “…too often Valley Fever is still perceived as simply an annoyance by the general public, health care professionals and local government officials. Even the majority of local residents in the endemic area perceive Valley Fever as a relatively benign disease. Combining this misconception with the lack of knowledge about the disease among new residents, tourists, new businesses, athletes and students moving into the endemic area, creates a vast population base which must endure Valley Fever illnesses (often without an accurate diagnosis) while being unprepared to deal with any possible complications arising from a Coccidioides sp. infection.” (Robert J. Brauer Jr., Executive Director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, VFCE Annual Report 2001-2002)
I have cats, dogs, horses and/or other animals. Are they safe from Valley Fever?
All mammals (including cats, dogs, horses, dolphins, etc.) and some other animals also are susceptible to the disease. It is considered an epidemic in dogs. There have been no confirmed cases in birds to date.
Who is at the greatest risk for the worst Valley Fever infections?
Senior citizens and young children under five years old, people with immune disorders like HIV/AIDS, organ transplant recipients, diabetics, pregnant women, and some races (particularly blacks and Filipinos) have historically been known to have the worst cases. People working close to the soil (construction workers, gardeners, etc.) are also at a higher risk than the general population because they are likely to inhale many more spores of the fungus as the spores are being stirred up.
However, it is important to repeat that ANYONE can have a severe or fatal infection no matter how healthy they are and even if they don’t have any risk factors. For example, a 2006 article in Clinical Infectious Diseases reviewed hospital data to show that 86.3% of child patients and 87.5% of adult patients hospitalized with Valley Fever had healthy immune systems (Chu JH, Feudtner C, Heydon K, Walsh TJ, Zaoutis TE. Hospitalizations for endemic mycoses: a population-based national study. Clin Infect Dis. 2006 Mar 15;42(6):822-5).
Did I contract Valley Fever because I have another disease?
No. People contract the disease simply by inhaling a Coccidioides sp. spore. Some diseases are more likely to allow a Valley Fever case to be more severe, but everyone can contract Valley Fever because everyone needs to breathe.
If I have an immune deficiency, are my chances of contracting Valley Fever any greater?
Anyone in an endemic area has an equal chance to inhale the fungal spores. Although more people with healthy immune systems suffer overall, a person has a greater risk for the most serious Valley Fever symptoms with an immune system that is severely weakened.
When AIDS and VF were being recognized as a serious combination in patients, a study showed that 60% of these patients died, even though most had antifungal treatment. Of those who died, 68% died in a median 54 days. (Singh VR, Smith DK, Lawerence J, Kelly PC, Thomas AR, Spitz B, Sarosi GA. Coccidioidomycosis in patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus: review of 91 cases at a single institution. Clin Infect Dis. 1996 Sep;23(3):563-8.) Another study showed a 42% death rate over seven years. (Fish DG, Ampel NM, Galgiani JN, Dols CL, Kelly PC, Johnson CH, Pappagianis D, Edwards JE, Wasserman RB, Clark RJ, et al. Coccidioidomycosis during human immunodeficiency virus infection. A review of 77 patients. Medicine (Baltimore). 1990 Nov;69(6):384-91.) A more recent study of VF patients with AIDS said a quarter of the patients “died within 90 days of the diagnosis of coccidioidomycosis.” (Woods CW, McRill C, Plikaytis BD, Rosenstein NE, Mosley D, Boyd D, England B, Perkins BA, Ampel NM, Hajjeh RA. Coccidioidomycosis in human immunodeficiency virus-infected persons in Arizona, 1994-1997: incidence, risk factors, and prevention. J Infect Dis. 2000 Apr;181(4):1428-34.)
Since I don’t have an immune deficiency, I don’t have to worry about Valley Fever, right?
Wrong! As in the question above, it changes the odds of dissemination but it doesn’t mean you won’t contract the disease or have a severe case. Your odds of contracting the disease do not change whether you have an immune deficiency or not since this parasitic fungal infection is acquired simply by breathing. More healthy people contract Valley Fever than immune-compromised people. Further, even if someone doesn’t have an immune deficiency now doesn’t guarantee his or her health for a lifetime — AIDS, organ transplantation, cancer treatments, and many other drugs are known to reduce immune effectiveness, potentially allowing for a fresh activation of the host’s dormant Valley Fever infection.
I completely got over my Valley Fever infection or I was infected but never sickened by it. Does this mean I’m free and clear from the disease?
Valley Fever can activate or reactivate later in one’s life whether the infection initially caused symptoms or not. This does not mean infected people should panic, simply that they should consider the possibility if they have any of the symptoms later. See our Symptoms Page for more information.
If I already have Valley Fever, do I have a lifetime immunity to the disease?
Once a person is infected with Valley Fever an immune resistance takes effect in the body, but this does not mean “immunity” in the sense that a person could never suffer from the disease again. Not only have reactivations occurred in many cases, but it has been proven that even “immune” hosts can suffer a severe case of cocci if they inhale enough additional spores. Doctors can not tell the difference between a reactivation and a reinfection.
Fifteen trillion Coccidioides arthroconidia can fit into a cubic inch. It is impossible to predict when any breath of air in Arizona or another endemic area might contain enough spores to demolish an infected person’s immune resistance.
I’m pregnant. Does this matter for my Valley Fever case?
Valley Fever can strike pregnant women with much more severe cases than non-pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester. Many antifungal drugs can cause birth defects to a developing fetus and patients may be put on these drugs for life. Doctors have recommended that some of these women should never have children. This can be devastating to young girls who wanted to become mothers one day.
Is there a greater risk of Valley Fever at certain times of the year?
In Arizona the largest outbreaks are usually from June through July and October through November. In California, the usual outbreaks are from June through November. Valley Fever can be contracted all year round, but studies have shown that larger outbreaks tend to follow major rain and drought cycles. Please see our Dawn to Dusk Page for more information.
What can I do to protect myself from Valley Fever?
Avoid going to any endemic region. However, if you live in or visit an endemic area to Coccidioides, it is helpful to keep car vents closed, avoid going out during dust storms, and avoid being near or participating in soil-disturbing activities (gardening, digging, etc). Visible dust does not need to be in the air for Coccidioides spores to be present. Even these measures may not keep you completely safe, but they are important precautions. However, if you live in or visit an endemic area to Coccidioides spp., read our Dawn To Dusk Page to see what you can do to recognize the dangers.
I heard of someone who contracted Valley Fever but never went to an endemic area. How is this possible?
Sometimes fungi like C. immitis and C. posadasii can rest on inanimate objects like clothing, pottery, blankets, packing material, or even in the soil of potted plants, etc. and these products could be shipped elsewhere with the biohazard intact. This could be more likely on dusty objects, vehicles driven through endemic areas, or objects purchased outdoors at roadside stands in an endemic region. The items that had the spores on them are referred to as fomites.
If I live in a non-endemic area (where Coccidioides sp. does not grow), does that mean I’m safe?
If you remain more than 500 miles away from any known endemic area, the answer may be yes. Winds have only been known to spread the spores up to 500 miles. However, some focal endemic areas have been discovered far from the expected areas, like the Dinosaur National Monument outbreak in northern Utah in June 2001.
Is it possible to pass through an endemic state for only a short time and still contract Valley Fever?
Yes. One person we heard of was in Phoenix only to change planes at the airport and contracted a Valley Fever infection at that time. People have also contracted Valley Fever while just driving through endemic states.
Is it safe to come to an endemic state for just a short stay? For a baseball game, the Fiesta Bowl, the Gem and Jewelry show, etc?
No. There is always a risk of contracting Valley Fever. Although there are specific risk factors, anyone can contract Valley Fever at any time. All one needs to do is inhale a microscopic spore of the airborne fungal parasite.
Will a bandana or dust mask protect me from contracting Valley Fever if it is dusty outside?
No. Since the spores that cause Valley Fever are so small (approximately the same size as the anthrax spore), ordinary dust masks and bandanas can’t prevent you from being infected. The microscopic spores can pass through the mask like marbles dropped through a fishing net. A respirator that prevents the inhalation of particles 2-4 micrometers in size may help. Ordinary N95 or N100 respirators are often sold as paper masks and will almost certainly let spores through the sides since they can’t form a perfect seal around the face. Miner’s masks (or other masks with a complete seal and protection against 2-4 micrometer particles) can provide the needed protection. Also, facial hair prevents the seal that is necessary for the effectiveness of many masks.
Coccidioides spores grow in hot places like the desert. Will it protect me from a Valley Fever reactivation if I avoid hot beverages and activities that feel like they raise my body temperature?
No. While San Joaquin Valley Fever is named as much for its location as the fever it can produce, the human body’s heat is still very stable. If someone chooses to drink cold water the body will just burn slightly more calories to maintain an even body temperature. If the drink is hot water instead, the body will burn slightly fewer calories to maintain the same internal temperature. The same is true for people living in slightly warmer or slightly colder climates.
Some Valley Fever patients have been instructed to exercise as a part of their therapy to overcome some of their symptoms. Other patients, such as those with VF arthritis, have been told exercise might make their symptoms worse. The internal human body temperature normally remains fairly constant, even during exercise. We have found zero research to indicate exercise could cause a reactivation or increase cocci growth in the body. However, if you are ill and overstress your body with too much exercise or uncomfortable temperatures, your VF case could get worse due to the stress and not the heat.
I have shunt tubing and I’m infected with Valley Fever. My Valley Fever case appeared to be better for a while, but suddenly got worse. Is this a normal reactivation of my infection?
It may not be. In some Valley Fever cases, shunt tubing can grow a biofilm that resists antifungal treatment. You may wish to read this article and share it with your doctor if you have shunt tubing and a Valley Fever infection.
Do the state governments where Valley Fever is contracted know about this disease?
Yes. The endemic states’ legislators all know about this disease and the Valley Fever Center for Excellence has sent information to all United States Senators as well.
I’ve read your letter to the State of Arizona. You have not posted a reply. How did they respond?
We sent a letter in 2003 near the start of our advocacy as Valley Fever Survivor. Unfortunately the bureaucrats in Arizona have chosen not to respond. We believe that this speaks volumes. We have spoken to Arizona Department of Health Services personnel and they have refused our request to warn the public about the dangers of Valley Fever. We believe their refusal to warn is only due to economic reasons and that your money is more important to them than your health. In fact, in the minutes of a Arizona State Senate Committee on Health meeting featured testimony regarding this disease, it was said that if “Valley Fever is not managed by education and research, businesses and tourists may go elsewhere.” (Minutes of the Arizona State Senate Committee on Health. Phoenix, AZ 4 Feb 2002).
What are the endemic states doing to fund vaccine and cure research against this fungal parasite?
Arizona does not fund any Valley Fever organization directly, even as almost every year produced what was then considered the worst Valley Fever outbreak in recorded history, only to be outdone again by the following year. Ultimately with the colossal outbreak in 2006, $50,000 in emergency funds were spent to train Arizona’s doctors to recognize Valley Fever. No funding for Valley Fever research has yet been appropriated.
The State of California had been funding the Valley Fever Vaccine Project in varying but important degrees in the 2000s, even through ongoing statewide budgetary problems but was completely cut in 2013. Some vaccine work continues through grants since the state is not the only source of funding but research will not be able to continue as it should. Full funding has never been a sure thing to the end of the vaccine’s successful completion but it is critical.
Since 2017 California had instituted funding for research on disease surveillance and treatment research.
I thought a warm, dry, sunny climate like Arizona and Southern California was good for my health. That’s what my doctor tells me. Why should I believe otherwise?
Some people will certainly enjoy the warmth, the dryness, and the sun. It’s just the incurable, debilitating, painful, and potentially fatal Coccidioides spp. fungal parasites that we seek to warn people about. Since everyone has to breathe and that is mainly how Valley Fever is contracted in these endemic regions, one must be aware of this to decide whether the climate matters more than the health risk.
I know someone who died from Valley Fever. If I contract it, does that mean I’ll die too?
Every case can be different. Remember that Valley Fever may not cause any problems initially and some cases resolve without the need for medication. Obtaining prompt medical care and early diagnosis may prevent dissemination and some of Valley Fever’s worst health problems.
My titers have recently become lower, but my Valley Fever symptoms feel worse. How is this possible and what could this mean?
While a lower number on the Valley Fever complement fixation titer often means that the patient’s symptoms are improving, the link is not absolute. This is because titers test for antibodies against Valley Fever, and while antibodies are useful in blood tests for doctors’ diagnoses, they are not effective when fighting the disease. It is cell-mediated immunity that fights Valley Fever, specifically with white blood cells called T lymphocytes.
A decreased antibody response could be due to A) an immune system problem, B) the fact that a decrease in antibody response doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the course of the disease (VF may actually be getting worse), or C) a medical error during testing or transportation of test materials.
Remember that antifungal drugs’ side effects can cause many symptoms that are similar to Valley Fever. These side effects can continue while the drug has stopped the Valley Fever symptoms. Unfortunately, some patients may need to take the drugs and endure the side effects for a lifetime.
Can sublimed sulfur (also known as flowers of sulfur) cure Valley Fever?
We have not found any medical research on Valley Fever with this material. Sublimed sulfur is unrelated to “sulfa” drugs (sulfonamides) and there can be serious side effects if sulfur is ingested. Warning labels on sulfur packages have stated that it is not for ingestion. No doctor to our knowledge has ever suggested a person take this toxic, explosive substance. People have been injured after attempting this. We strongly urge our readers not to use sulfur in spite of deceptive claims that this cures Valley Fever.
If I just took an alternative remedy for Valley Fever and feel worse, is that okay because it’s only a “Herxheimer reaction?”
The Herxheimer reaction is the release of toxins that occurs when some parasites die. Some patients believe the Herxheimer reaction will be a moment of discomfort from the toxin followed by greater health after the spores die. This can not happen in Valley Fever because the fungi of Coccidiodies sp. do not release toxins (Dr. Ampel, VFCE). The alternative treatment (like flowers of sulfur) may therefore be the cause of their unpleasant reaction.
Why has the incidence of Valley Fever been on the rise and how bad is the epidemic?
An excerpt from the 2/13/03 minutes of the Arizona State Senate Committee on Health follows:
“Dr. John Galgiani, Professor of Medicine, UA, and Director, Valley Fever Center for Excellence, distributed a handout (Attachment F) and provided an overview of the status of Valley Fever in Arizona. Currently, the State is experiencing an epidemic. [Years later, the epidemic is far worse.] Although Valley Fever is a national problem, 65% of the cases are in Arizona. He stressed that Valley Fever could be used as an agent of bioterrorism. If the perceived risk of Valley Fever is not managed by education and research, businesses and tourists may go elsewhere.”
“Dr. Galgiani referred to this week’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) Report, noting that Valley Fever is the fourth most commonly reported infectious disease to the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS). The increase in reported infection is unexplained, but could possibly be linked to construction, climatic effects, and bioterroist [sic] attack.”
“…There is no clear explanation for the cause of the epidemic, which is in excess of the population growth…one in four college students are sick for up to four months. He pointed out the problems with current therapy, noting that less than 70% of patients respond to therapy. However, when therapy is stopped, relapses occur. He explained that indefinite therapy is expensive with lifetime therapy costing two-thirds of a million dollars for each patient.”
The complete minutes are available at this link.
The Valley Fever problem has become considerably worse. 2006’s reported annual infections were so high they represented the worst Valley Fever epidemic in Arizona’s recorded history, and 2007 was nearly as bad. This is not surprising. Nearly every previous year had also been the worst Valley Fever epidemic of its time for the past ten years. Every year’s infections have been even higher than when biological terrorism was a reasonable explanation for the increased caseload.
Aside from Hepatitis C and sexually-transmitted diseases, more people in Arizona were reported to have Valley Fever in 2007 than any other disease. This follows the trend from previous years and continued every year since.